By Davie Philip
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” Dostoyevsky
So here we are at the threshold of another new year, traditionally the time we make resolutions and reflect on how we are doing. I want to explore here why a strong sense of purpose is important in living a good life and playing our part in making the world flourish. I want to look at what we might do to find and maintain purpose and meaning, and really live our lives by our principles and values.
If you haven’t heard the news, the world has a few problems to solve. We urgently need to rethink how we do almost everything and if we want to cultivate a good life – one in which we thrive, not just survive – it will be crucial to have a clear sense of purpose. Without it, our lives will lack meaning, we won’t get to do what we are passionate about and we may not get the opportunity to share the unique gifts we have to share.
Let’s begin by defining what we mean by purpose. A simple definition might be: the reason for which we exist or why we do what we do. Discovering the reason we are doing what we are doing is an active, values-driven pursuit, it is not just about discovering what we should do, it is about why you do what you love to do. In many ways you could say the purpose of life is living a life of purpose.
Philosophers have grappled with this subject for millennia. Purpose, and how it can bring meaning to one’s life, is related to the deepest existential questions we ask ourselves like, ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What should I do?’ Science has now discovered that a strong sense of purpose is associated with a revitalised sense of wellbeing as well as physical and mental resilience. We are at our healthiest and happiest when we have a purpose and the energy to pursue it.
Your purpose is your North Star, an invisible guide helping you navigate through the most challenging of times. In no particular order here are some steps to find your purpose and discover how it might align with the changes that are needed in the world.
- Slow down, sense the need
- Identify the bigger context; from the need springs the purpose
- Let go of fear and begrudgery
- When we stop finger-pointing and blaming others everything changes.
- Discover what feels important to you
- Appreciate what you are good at and ask yourself what makes you come alive.
- With yourself, your family, your community and the environment around you.
- Use systems thinking and move from the I to the We
- We become less self-centred when we take a wider perspective.
- Nurture self-transcending values rather than self-enhancing ones
- Cultivate values such as relationship, empathy, community and things bigger than yourself, rather than fame, power, status and wealth.
- Find common purpose
This is the key to the transformation that is needed in the world. Cooperate, collaborate and build community.
Davie Philip is a group facilitator and trainer who manages the Community Resilience programme at Cultivate Living and Learning. He is based at the Cloughjordan Ecovillage and is a board member of GIY Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org